WVW: The Vow - Judges 11
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand.33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.
34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains.39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.
Classic. Whereas most people offered sacrifices of bulls and lambs to God, Jephthah decided to vow to God, “whatever comes out the doors of my house to meet me, I’m gunna kill that thing.” My first question is, how many things could possibly come out of your house to meet you?? Sure some people may have a dog that runs up to them to meet them at the door. Does your dog open your front door and come out to meet you though?? I’m so done with Jephthah.
Maybe things were bad at home and he was hoping it would be his wife. Either way, Jephthah is a sick pup! Let’s dive into what’s going on here.
This is a really sad story. It’s sad, because someone so misunderstood God, that they killed their own child out of ignorance. One thing that you need to always remember when reading the Bible, is that just because the Bible is giving you a historical narrative of something that happened, that doesn’t mean that the behavior is condoned.
I see this mistake being made all the time. I pull most of my ideas for Weird Verse Wednesday from atheist forums or blogs that criticize the Bible. These places are littered with the fallacy that the Bible condones everything that it contains. This sacrifice was a grave error made by Jephthah.
Before I get into that, it is important to note that there is a small debate on whether Jephthah was offering the first thing that walked out of his house as a burnt offering or if he was dedicating the first thing that walked out of his house to the Lord.
If you say that he was not sacrificing it, he was dedicating it to the Lord, the argument you make is that his daughter would serve in the sanctuary and would never marry. That is why she mourned for two months that she was never going to marry and have children. Though this may be the strongest argument that she was dedicated as a living sacrifice, I think it can also support the narrative that he sacrificed her as a burnt offering. If she spent her whole life dreaming of her wedding day and her future children as many women do, of course she would feel sorrow that she would never fulfill her lifelong desire.
I believe there are several other arguments that support the fact that he sacrificed her as a burnt offering.
1. He lived beyond the Jordan and far from the tabernacle, where his daughter would supposedly be serving God.
2. He was a hypocrite when it came to religious devotion, and the vow he made was contrary to the Mosaic Law (more about this later)
3. He was familiar with human sacrifice from surrounding nations.
4. Surrounding nations would often make human sacrifices to their gods before battle for good luck.
5. He was influenced by these other nations.
6. His casting out earlier in the chapter likely made him deeply desire this victory in battle, causing him to make a drastic vow.
7. Emphasis on the fact that she was his only daughter seems to foreshadow a sacrifice.
Here is the worst thing about Jephthah - the fact that he said “I have made a vow which I cannot break” shows total ignorance of God’s law. Leviticus 27 teaches all about the different ways you can get out of a vow to the Lord! You just have to pay some money!! It even makes provisions if you’re poor. You just pay whatever you can afford to pay!!!
On top of that, the law prohibits human sacrifice in several different portions (Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; Deut 12:31; 18:10). He clearly did not have to sacrifice his daughter, but out of pure ignorance and supposed religious duty, he went through with it and killed her.
This is what can happen when we go through life going through religious motions and ignoring what God truly desires. Of course, this is an extreme example and I don’t expect that anyone will be sacrificing their kids, however it is dangerous to believe oneself to be highly religious while ignoring your relationship with God. This is what the Pharisees did. This is what I did for a long time! God desires to have a true relationship with us, not some sort of supposed devotion to rules that we think we need to follow. The Bible says that people like this are like “white-washed tombs”; alive on the outside but dead on the inside. We cannot save ourselves from our sin by “obeying” our way to Heaven. We can only put our hope in Jesus to save our souls. I pray that you will not be like Jephthah. Don’t walk in ignorance to God’s true desires. He wants to save your soul, all you need to do is put your faith in Him.
Love you guys!